Getting the Good Stuff: A Life Worth Living/Sharing
My client sat across from me bemoaning what, for him, seemed to be his fate. “I’m never going to find anyone,” he said. “I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.”
He stole a glance at me and then waited, possibly hoping I’d reassure him that the future wasn’t so bleak. Instead, I nodded my head and said, “You’re probably right.”
“What are you saying?” He was no longer stewing in his self-pity. He was angry (or what we therapists call “progress”).
“I’m saying that so long as you think and behave the way you do, you’ll always be alone except for the random woman who’ll make you wish you were alone.”
“What should I do?” he asked.
“First of all, I don’t think you understand the real problem.”
“OK…so what is the ‘real’ problem?”
“The ‘real’ problem is your life; you are absolutely miserable. You just told me you have nothing to live for and you spend your days sitting in front of your computer monitor playing video games or going out drinking too much with your so-called friends.”
“I’m miserable, yes, it’s true, but that’s only because I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“That’s actually part of the problem. You’re looking for a girlfriend instead of the right girlfriend but that isn’t the ‘real’ problem right now.”
“All right. I give up.” He gritted his teeth before seeming to spit out his words, “So. What. Is. The. Real. Problem?”
“If I’m hearing you correctly you basically think your life is a POS.”
“Piece of shit. Isn’t that what you think? That, since you don't have anyone and can't foresee anyone sharing your life in the foreseeable future, your life sucks. It’s a piece of shit. Did I get that right?”
He slumped back into his seat nodding and utterly defeated.
“So, the question I have for you is this: what woman out there, who is hopefully in her right mind, would ever want to share your POS life?” I sat there smiling in that really annoying way some therapists do. (I’ve practiced that a lot.) I continued, “You see, sure, there are mental cases out there who are looking to build up their love life by gathering up stray dogs in the neighborhood. One of them might like you. She could bring you home, feed you some scraps, rub your tummy and I think you’d like it.” (My client didn’t look like he'd like it.) Again, I continued, “But, over time, I doubt that you’d really be comfortable because the relationship is based on her being your savior, that is, her and her bowl of kibble, and forever after that you’d always be in the underdog position. It wouldn’t be an adult human sort of love, but, by God, you’d have a girlfriend. Does that sound like what you’re looking for?” I smiled again.
“Of course not.”
“Then you have only one choice.”
“Well, let me make sure I got you here. You’d like to have a woman, a normal woman who is loving and kind and intelligent and who would love you—is that right?”
“Well, to do that, to share your life with a normal and even a wonderful woman, you’d have to have a life worth sharing. You don’t have that.”
“How can you say that? That’s just mean.”
“You pay me a lot of money to tell you the truth and to be quick about it—isn’t that what you want from me?”
“Well, you’ve told me you’re depressed and that you often think of ending it all in a suicidal blaze of glory, right?”
“Yeah, but that’s only because I’m so lonely and I just need a girlfriend.”
I shook my head, “No, your life is miserable and you want to find a wonderful woman you can love and admire and offer to share your miserable POS life with her. No normal, loving woman is looking to do that.”
The BB finally dropped into the right hole: he saw it. In fact, he saw the folly of his last five years since high school.
“What do I do?” he asked.
“You just did the biggest part,” I said. “You looked at yourself and you saw your problem, a problem that only you can do something about. All we have to do, in the near future, is get some idea of how you can develop a life worth living so that you can invite the right women to consider whether or not they’d be interested in sharing that life with you. So...what kind of a life would you like to have?”
Does it get any more straightforward than this?
If you want a wonderful (and normal) person to share your life with you, you’re going to have to get a life worth sharing. Easy, right? The follow up is just as simple: to get a life worth sharing, you’re going to have to develop a life worth living.
A life worth living is the sort of life that brings you joy and offers you a sense of purpose or mission. Author Sam Keen once said something like, "Men have two questions they have to answer if they’re going to be successful: the first is ‘Where am I going?’ The second is, ‘Who am I going with?’ The problem with American men is that they answer these two questions in exactly the opposite order.”
So the FIRST STEP is figuring out who I am and what I’m all about. This is simple to say, but it’s not so simple to accomplish. To do this there are some things you need to know and some things you need to do.
Here’s what you need to know:
Sitting on the couch and waiting for the perfect person to show up is NEVER going to work.
Staying stuck in your fears, depression, and isolation is NEVER going to work.
Thinking someone, aside from yourself, is going to save you is NEVER going to work.
Now that you know what you need to know, here’s what you need to do:
Let go of the end game, that is, getting a lover. This part of your journey is ALL about you. At this point, don’t even worry about having to say “Hi” to anyone. What creates joy in your life has to become your focus. If you have sex, no problem, but avoid relational entanglements. They are a horrible distraction right now.
Begin by beginning to answer the question “Where are you going?” Career is so much more than getting a job to pay some bills. Career is about your reason for living, your mission in life as it were. You may not know enough to answer this question but you have to start the journey now! The ultimate answer may depend on what you learn along the way so might as well start thinking, dreaming, going to a career counselor, and just being open to the universe’s guidance. WARNING: this may include reading!
Having a life worth living is all about uncovering who you are and what kind of life really makes you happy so you MUST make a list of the activities you like, or think you might like, and then, one by one, give them a try. You don’t have to stick with anything you don’t like, but just be open to giving whatever it is a try. WARNING: playing video games 16 hours a day doesn’t count!
Doing the things you like to do naturally leads to joining others in competitions (foot races), clubs (try Meet Ups or the freakin’ Shriners—who cares?), classes (learn how to cook, how to speak a foreign language, how to sail, something!), or ANY ACTIVITY THAT WORKS FOR YOU. If you have a deep burning desire for macramé then, by God, let’s get some twine!
A month or two into this, take inventory. Are we having fun yet? Having a life worth living is a lot like having sex; if it doesn't feel good, you’re probably doing it wrong. Change up your game, get a little more focused, or talk to people who look like they’re living the dream. Let these people help you.
Get Out There and Start Living!
In their book Science Matters, authors Robert Hazen and James Trefil write, “If you expect someone to know something, you have to tell him or her what it is.”
In this abbreviated first chapter of my forthcoming book Getting the Good Stuff, I’m trying to tell “him or her” (or YOU, dear reader) how to live a life worth living (and sharing). In order to manage your sexuality intelligently, you have to understand and figure this part out before you can move on to the other steps of this program.